Sultan al-Barakani, Chairman of the PGC party bloc to the Yemen times: ‘If the opposition finds itself unfit for the elections in the educational sector, this indicates that they have no existence at all in the political arena’ [Archives:2002/36/Interview]

September 2 2002

Mr. Sultan al-Barakani, the Chairman of the People’s General Congress (PGC) party bloc in the parliament has given an interview to the Yemen Times, talking about many crucial issues from different standpoints. The Chairman of the PGC party bloc has highlighted different issues, including the PGC’s point of view towards stabilization of the democratic values and principles and the Yemeni-US relations.
Following is a report on the interview reported by Mohammed al-Massani For the Yemen Times.
YT: The opposition parties have accused the ruling party of attempting to win the elections to the interest of the PGC, how do you respond to that?
A: The question of accusation is not new on part of the opposition parties. It is natural for them to accuse the government because it is their salable business. The opposition is unfair in dealing with positive or negative aspects.
We at the People’s General Congress, (PGC) are convinced it has no alternative but to offer to people but accusations. As for PGC attempt monopolize winning the elections, it is something illogical because elections are not the desire of a certain party but associated with voters. Former elections could be an experience for the opposition. The PGC depends on its weight in the political arena and what it has offered to people. It is not in favor of the PGC to win all parliamentary seats. There must be an opposition and we encourage that. Opposition is encouraged by the PGC. We also make concessions and conduct dialogues. By their stand, opposition parties want to present justifications in case they have not succeeded in the elections.
YT: The opposition parties are skeptical of honest elections under the ruling party’s control over money and the army.
A: As regards money, the opposition parties have participated in approving the state budget. If the financial matters are at the PGC’s disposal, we ask them from where the revenues come as long as resources and expenses are defined in the budget? They are submitted to the parliament and the public opinion, and ratified by the parliament. There is also the Central Apparatus for Control and Audit. From where money will come as all revenues are fixed inside the general budget of the state and all their expenditure are included in the investment programs?
YT: Opposition parties press mention about spread of corruption, claiming the ruling party is not serious in fighting it.
A: The corruption is a matter that all would recognize. No party could claim itself to be ideal and the other a demon. It is an issue all have to tackle. We are going ahead in multi-lateral reform programs. If we have taken a daring step in this regard the opposition would be the first to harshly criticize it when their members in the government are exposed to accountability. They will claim that the measure was meant against them. Frankly speaking, we can conclude that the corrupt are found in both the opposition and the PGC.
In this respect, serious efforts are in full swing to fight corruption. Around 2000 employees are under investigation. In my point of view, the existence of the local councils and their members will contribute a lot to put an end to corruption and the corrupt.
YT: What are your expectations regarding the seats in the parliament you are going to win?
A:This matter is not subject to fortune-telling. Our performance would be the criterion giving or denying us a majority, added to it the citizens’ conviction whether concerning us or the opposition. I don’t believe that there is a guaranteed constituency. The previous elections are clear testimony and that there is no scope for opinion measurement in our country. There is no either specialized institution in this regard. Those who always talk about getting seats in the parliament are relying on groundless information and have nothing to do with such expectations.
YT: If the PGC wins a sweeping majority, what promises do you have?
A: All parties have the right to aspire after winning majority. Would the opposition be able to win the majority it would not allow the PGC win a single seat. Winning a majority is not something to be ashamed of in elections and democratic process. In the latest French elections the Gaulists have won a sweeping majority, can anyone say that France is not democratic? If the opposition are convinced that the PGC will win the majority, it signifies that they have no effective presence among the masses and their party performance is insufficient. If they could convince the people that the PGC has some disadvantages, we welcome this.
The major issues the PGC promises are development and the economic issue in the first place, improvement of the living conditions and building the state of law and order and constitutional institutions. Those are the main issues we are working for. Several programs in the field of development have been accomplished. The coalition crippled the PGC’s orientations towards achieving a comprehensive development for the country. The ordinary citizen can hold a comparison between the last seven years, (1990-1997) and the recent years particularly when the PGC has assumed power single-handedly. I believe that without the PGC’s positive contributions, the party will be of no significance and therefore it will be marginalized like other opposition parties.
YT: How far have you reached regarding other parties’ shares in the Supreme Elections Committee?
A: This is a matter up to the Supreme Election Committee (SEC). We have taken the initiative for holding dialogues in order to work together; ruling party and opposition, for stabilizing values of democracy and its principles. The PGC has always offered concessions. We will pay a dear price in case of canceling electoral records for the sake of coaxing the opposition parties. We don’t feel regretful for to canceling the electoral tables. What want to convince the opposition, the people of Yemen and international organizations that when a party fails to win an election, this party always attributes its failure to counterfeiting.
We at the PGC have reluctantly accepted the SEC’s decisions and have also showed adherence to all initiatives that have been taken. It is better for the SEC to apply its decisions to those who have not showed any adherence. But, unfortunately, the SEC has been docile to the opposition parties and ultimately educational committees have been formed.
The proportion principle is illegal. The right to form committees is the SEC’s business according to what has been stipulated in the constitution. We can not talk about the SEC’s neutrality in this regard. The SEC has been entrusted with appointing or dismissing a given party. The law has granted to the parties to monitor in a way that sees it suitable. The SEC stated that the registration period would begin at the beginning of the first half of 2002. Now, we are in September and nothing has been achieved yet. Perhaps the opposition parties find themselves not eligible for running elections or that they want more time to cripple the election process. If the opposition finds itself unfit for the elections in the educational sector, this indicates that they have no existence at all on the political arena.
YT: How do you assess the PGC’s preparation in the upcoming elections?
A: We at the PGC are far away from the state of alert the opposition parties are experiencing. Actions speak louder than words. We are content that we have made laudable strides and clear-cut platform where it has reached to the people’s minds and hearts and not in the way the opposition desires.
The platform of the opposition is restricted only to charging accusations at the PGC. They don’t even distinguish between election propaganda and platform. They have no alternatives and they don’t think of the development aspects of the country or providing job opportunities for the unemployed. The main issue is not preparations; it is only left for the voter to make up his mind.
YT: Recently, the relations between the Joint Meeting Parties, specifically between the YSP and Islah, have been strengthened, does this constitute a coalition against the PGC?
A: We have experienced the coalition matter in our country; we in this respect have found ourselves near to the left and the right. It is a great difficulty to make an alliance between extreme left and extreme right. We consider that a kind of tactics, hoping that the YSP and the Islah could agree on one program. It will be a positive aspect for the better.
In a joint meeting, the president has asked them to form a bloc to oppose the ruling party. There is nothing to worry about on the part of the PGC particularly of the YSP and Islah’s coalition. We are confident that both of them will work behind the scenes to achieve their desired goals.
Through their coalition, they want to put pressure on the PGC. We at the PGC have resolved the matter and that there is no coalition during the election process. We don’t want to accuse the Joint Meeting Parties to tell them that they failed in 1997 elections. The PGC will not be always the victim. We want to show others that the PGC is a strong political party.
YT: In a previous interview with the Sheik Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmer, the Speaker of the parliament, said that cancellation of the religious institutes constituted an regression against the revolution achievements, How do you comment on that?
A: Yemen is a country where Islam is firmly established; millions of Yemenis embraced Islam willingly. What we see is that our country is a pure Islamic country. We are not in Sudan or Lebanon where Muslims and Christians are found in huge numbers. In my point of view, if the revolution is restricted only to establishing religious institutes, where the Speaker of the parliament sees that they are illuminati of the revolution, I think he is mistaken in this regard, if he believes also that 500 or 300 religious institutes’ graduates or perhaps million of mosque preachers is necessary. On my part, there is no need for this huge number of graduates. The religious institutes were an indispensable aspect when the communist thought was at its peak of prosperity. If the Islah party has institutes, the other parties also have the right to establish such institutes where a party’s theory can be focused on.
These institutes have been established in the mid of the 1997s. The first institute was established by the monarchists in Khowlan when the republicans are perceived as apostates. Shiekh Abdullah is perhaps one of the founders of the PGC. The first statement of the PGC was in 1982 where its members called for unifying education until the Unification Day was announced.
If the Shiekh Abdullah and others at the Islah Party who were one day members at the PGC see that the education issue is one of the advantages of the revolution and the republic, it is better for them not to issue statement concerning unifying education. We have made great efforts with the Islah party and showed readiness to change the curriculum to school textbooks. We don’t want education for a specific group of people at the expense of others.
YT: To what extent does the Yemeni-US relations have reached?
A: Our relations with the US are clearly seen and there is nothing to worry about. Anyone who follows closely the Yemeni-US relations starting from the USS Cole bombing incident and then September 11 terrorist attack against Washington DC and New York will see that the PGC has behaved wisely with such incidents. We at the PGC have seriously made dialogues with them. That is because our national issues have greatly concerns us a lot. We at the PGC also have agreed and disagreed and feel that there is a certain kind of pressure. That doesn’t mean that we have misused Yemen’s sovereignty. We are in this respect not the weakest part. Things have been clear. Only some individuals were as umbrella of the US to encounter the communist thought. We can not say that they have no place in Yemen. Only some of them have joined the army and a certain kind of enthusiasm and now they don’t represent a threat to the US. The US can not claim that they are involved in terrorist acts. They are referred to courts before America does and they were sentenced to death. The Yemeni security organizations have been tracking them down to know their whereabouts. Yemen in this case has been suffering a lot from terrorist and sabotage acts. When the US realize that Yemen’s long-term suffering of terrorism, they would treat things objectively.
YT: What about the US and its campaign against Saudi Arabia?
A: As for our brothers in Saudi Arabia, we believe that the US will not deny its relation with Saudi Arabia. They have fought tooth and nails for along with the US for about a half-century and they were there in Afghanistan. We have somewhat a different stance from that of Saudi Arabia. This can be attributed to the availability of the communist and capitalist bloc in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has chosen the US side and supported with money from the very beginning. We oppose and condemn any terrorist threats against our brothers in the Saudi Arabia.